Such is the dire food situation in the secretive state, Kim Jong-un has warned citizens they must eat less food until the country can reopen its border with China. With families across the country struggling for food, many were told they could ease the crisis by eating the country’s black swans. Timothy Cho fled North Korea aged 17. He now lives in Denton, Greater Manchester and works for Open Doors, a charity supporting persecuted Christians around the world, including those living in the totalitarian regime.
Open Doors estimates 400,000 North Koreans are Christian – around 1.5 percent of the 26 million population.
North Korea is heavily reliant on food imports but a vast swathe of its agricultural produce was destroyed following devastating floods over the summer.
Mr Cho has told Express.co.uk he fears another natural disaster could “blow the country” away.
He suggests deaths could surge past the estimated three million people who died during the ‘Arduous March’ – a period of mass starvation in North Korea between 1994 and 1998.
Mr Cho, who was homeless and tortured in jail before escaping, believes the impact of a natural disaster post-Covid would lead to untold tragedy.
He said: “If we see another major disaster, it will blow the country away.
“It will be worse than the Arduous March.
“There will be no way they can survive.
It is best summarised by a surge in prices of staple foods, such as corn, which doubled in price between December 2020 to June 2021.
A kilo of corn – a less preferred but cheaper alternative to rice – rose to 3,137 won (around £2).
North Korea relies heavily on imports from China but this has been hit after China closed its border to North Korea due to the pandemic.
Mr Cho added: “For now, December, people may be able to survive.
“But it’s a pretty small amount so between February and March, people will need to look for substantive food.
“Unless North Korea interacts with international organisations, I don’t see anything viable coming through to feed the people.”
He previously said: “North Koreans were going hungry long before the pandemic began.
“The COVID-19 crisis has only made a bad situation worse.
“Tractors, fertilizers, pesticides, and other materials are no longer affordable, with the closed borders sending prices spiralling, making food production even more difficult than usual.
“Supplies of food from outside of North Korea, whether officially imported or smuggled in on the black market, have also been largely blocked with the COVID-19 border closures.
“I have seen the death of my people in front of my eyes since I was a child.
“There is ongoing isolation, starvation, darkness, oppression, and persecution.
“And yet the North Korean authorities keep on saying, ‘Tighten your belts and follow our dear leaders’.”